SEC Football 2011: Power Ranking the Conference's Top Running Backs

Brett Stephen@@brettstephenAnalyst IIMay 11, 2011

SEC Football 2011: Power Ranking the Conference's Top Running Backs

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    SEC football is always known for stout defenses and strong running games, and 2011 should be no different.

    The SEC will be the home of many of the nation’s top running backs this season, but who is the best?

    In a league that always beats up its own teams with their grueling schedule, who will survive the season without injury and stand atop the mountain as the top running back?

    I’m going to power rank the SEC’s running back class of 2011 and tell you who to watch for this season.

10. Warren Norman, Vanderbilt

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    Norman goes into the summer as the Commodores' No. 1 running back. 

    In 2010, he had 77 attempts for 459 yards, but should have a much improved season in 2011 under new head coach James Franklin.

    Look for Norman to be closer to the 1,000-yard mark in 2011.

9. Caleb King, Georgia

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    King goes into the summer No. 1 on the Bulldogs' depth chart after the release of Washaun Ealey, but he may not be there the entire season if incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell has anything to say about it. 

    As a junior, King only rushed for 430 yards on 80 attempts, and few expect the oft-injured senior to burst onto the scene this year.

8. Jeff Demps, Florida

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    Demps is by far one of the fastest running backs in the SEC and the nation, but his undersized frame will keep him out of the elite ranks as far as SEC rushers go.

    Demps has averaged 633 yards per season during his time in Gainesville, and nothing leads me to believe that he will produce any more in 2011.

    New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will boost the production of quarterback John Brantley, but Demps will continue to be a threat that rarely produces.

7. Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss

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    After rushing for almost 1,000 yards in 2010, Bolden considered a jump to the NFL.

    After much consideration, he decided to return to Oxford for his senior season with the Ole Miss Rebels.

    Bolden will be an elite player on a mediocre (at best) team and should rush for 1,100 yards or more in 2011.

6. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State

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    Ballard quietly rushed for 968 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2010, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

    With the Bulldogs flying under the radar behind LSU and Alabama again in 2011, look for Ballard to once again put up huge numbers without much recognition.

    He will have to prove that he can maintain his numbers against top competition in the SEC, as most of his big performances in 2010 were against inferior non-conference opponents.

5. Michael Dyer, Auburn

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    Dyer carried the ball the bulk of the time as a freshman in 2010 with 182 attempts for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns.

    He will continue to be among the best running backs in the SEC. But with the loss of Cam Newton, who was the focus of defensive coordinators in 2010, Dyer’s production will decline slightly in 2011.

    Look for him to rush for just shy of 1,000 yards with approximately 10 touchdowns in 2011.

4. Spencer Ware, LSU

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    Spencer Ware dominated the Tigers’ spring game, scoring two touchdowns and showing great patience and vision on his runs.

    Ware also ran great routes in the passing game and looked like a seasoned veteran.

    If he continues his great play from both the Cotton Bowl and the spring game, he has the chance to have a season that will rank among the best the Tigers have ever seen.

3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

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    As a true freshman and one of the nation’s biggest recruits, Lattimore burst onto the scene in the SEC and proved he was not just hype, but truly one of the nation’s top running backs.

    The powerful back rushed for 4.8 yards per carry and racked up just shy of 1,200 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns.

    Just for good measure, Lattimore added more than 400 yards receiving and two more touchdowns.

    South Carolina will be without their senior quarterback as he is suspended indefinitely, but if Connor Shaw or Andrew Clifford can simply manage the game, Lattimore should be able to carry the load on offense and lead the SEC in rushing.

2. Trent Richardson, Alabama

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    Richardson has averaged 725 rushing yards per season in his two years playing second-string behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

    Given the chance to be the No. 1 running back for the Crimson Tide, Richardson may be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate himself.

    He has the rare combination of speed and power, and if he can stay healthy throughout the Tide’s brutal schedule, Richardson could be the SEC's leading rusher in 2011.

1. Knile Davis, Arkansas

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    One of the SEC’s top rushers in 2010, Davis returns in 2011 and will once again be one of the top rushers in the conference as well as the nation.

    Davis rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2010 and averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

    While he was not a productive scorer in 2010 with only 13 touchdowns, 2011 may be a different story since the Razorbacks will be without Ryan Mallett and will depend more heavily on Davis and the run game.

    Davis will be mentioned as a Heisman candidate and could potentially be a top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.